Ghost Rider's Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes sat down with Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier and answered many personal questions and reflected on their careers in this lengthy, in-depth interview:
Emmanuel Itier: Someone just asked the director if your amazing abs in the film were real… and we hear they were.
Nicolas Cage: Hard work. Hard, hard work. I guess I can understand why people continue to ask me that question, because you could do so many things today with CGI, but if you´re a woman, you know that´s real, right? You must know. Don´t you know it´s real?
Eva Mendes: Well, no because it looks so good that it looks too good. If I didn´t see it in person that day, I would have asked that question.
EI: We haven´t seen you like that before.
NC: Yes, you have. Look at Birdy.
EI: Are you always in that sort of shape?
NC: No. I always try to stay somewhat in shape, but I pushed it for that because I was playing a comic book superhero; and when you look at those old comic books, all those physiques are drawn in a very specific way that almost borders on not being real, but it´s very pronounced muscularity and I wanted to present that in the movie to help you believe in the whole ability that Johnny could be a superhero. But that was the result of nothing more than five hours in the gym every day for a year. That´s what that was and no one can maintain that, but that was real and I don´t know what else to say about it. [Laughs] What do you want to say about it?
EM: I thought it was fantastic! [Laughs]
NC: Thank you.
EI: Was it a big relief to finally get to play a comic book hero?
NC: Yeah, because I was signed pay or play to do Superman and that fell apart, and I´ll go on record – I did not take my full paycheck on that – that did not happen. I don´t know where that story came from. I took a very reduced amount for the amount of time that I took off in the hopes to make that movie. When I saw the current representation of Superman, I realized that the studio wanted a much more traditional, nostalgic approach and probably weren´t going to be too comfortable with what Tim (Burton) and I were going to get up to with that character. We were going to turn it on its ear and turn it upside down. It would have been really interesting, but I´m glad that it didn´t happen because I think Ghost Rider was a much more personal experience for me, because that is what I was reading when I was a boy. I was reading Ghost Rider and The Hulk. I liked the monsters. I was a Marvel Comics reader, and Batman, Superman, Spider Man - they need no introduction. You can almost cast anybody in those movies and you´ll have a hit because of the amount of popularity that those titles bring. Ghost Rider is a very important character who you´d have to be a comic book enthusiast to know about, but he needs an introduction and I felt very blessed that I could shake this character and say to those of you who don´t know who he is – try this. He´s more interesting–he´s deeper than these other characters. He deals with classic themes. It´s a philosophical story dressed in a popcorn movie. Walt Disney never made Faust for obvious reasons, but if he could have, I bet it would have been like Ghost Rider because these are classic stories that have resonated for centuries and they have a purpose – they´re here for a reason, and Ghost Rider presents to whole families what not to do – it´s a cautionary tale: don´t make this mistake. It doesn´t mean you´re going to sell your soul to “the devil,” but it does mean that there are people in life that don’t have your best interests at heart and they will take advantage of you, so what are you going to do with that when you find yourself in that situation? How are you going to take a negative and make it into a positive? How are you going to prevent it from happening again? How are you going to help others with it? And that’s what I think is so cool about “Ghost Rider”–plus he’s not…it’s a comic book. It’s a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a lot of fun, and I feel Eva and I had a chance to do some very playful acting together, and the movie has a lot of laughs in it–and it’s a biker movie–a supernatural western, a goth film, beauty and the beast and Faust all rolled into one. I couldn’t resist.
EI: Do you read comics?
NC: No, I don’t read comics, but I’m loyal to them because I grew up on them and I learned to read with them, and they stimulated my imagination and got me to…I’ve been playing this part for 40…[laughs] let me re-phrase–for at least 20 years.
EI: Why did you name your son after a super hero (Kal-El)?
NC: Kal. Well, we call him Kal. First of all, I liked the name Kal-El, but I also liked the name Kyle. Alice wanted a more unique name, so it was between Kahlil from Kahlil Gibran, the prophet, or Kal-El, Jarel’s son, but I didn’t think anybody would know because no one knows about Kal-El–they all know about Clark Kent. So I just thought it was a pretty name and it was unusual, and it was like Kyle but it still had a unique sound to it, and ultimately it stood for something very, very good. I find that there are two kinds of people in this life–there’s Batman people and Superman people (laughs).
EI: And you’re a Superman person?
NC: Well, I’m actually more on the Batman side. Actually, I’m more Ghost Rider. I was hoping that it would be a more positive path.
EI: Don’t you have a tattoo you had to cover for this film?
NC: Yeah, that’s the irony. I’ve got a flaming skull on my arm and I’m covering it up to play the part of a flaming skull in a movie.
EI: Why that particular tattoo?
NC: The flaming skull is an ancient icon. Ghost Rider is actually going all the way back to…there’s a famous, very powerful spirit in African traditional spirituality named Baron Samedi, and that means Baron Saturday, and he’s a spirit of the underworld and also love–and Ghost Rider also has that similar appearance and its honesty. There’s no mask in this character to hide behind; there’s no fake smile–you have just your skull, and when you look at the skull, you go, “Oh my gosh, that’s scary.” But when you think about it, you have a skull, I have a skull, we all have one. It’s a beautiful design. Some people think it contains the universe. So when you see Ghost Rider in action, you go, “He’s scary, but wait a minute–he’s beautifully human.” He’s a very human, honest, all good character.
EI: You keep repeating a line in the film: “You can’t live in fear.” Did that come from you?
NC: Yeah, I put that into the character because when I develop heroes, I like to give them mantras. In The Rock, my guy, Stanley Goodspeed, had, “I eat pressure for breakfast.” That was his mantra. What comic books do is they empower us. They’re like Jungian myths, and as children and being so impressionable, we tap into our heroes to give us strength as children, and then we use them again into our adulthood. Ghost Rider gave me strength as a child, and I continue to use him in my adulthood and I also think he will give strength to other children who are beleaguered by bad dreams. I had bad nightmares, and Ghost Rider said to me, “Wait a minute–you can have your nightmares work for you, not hurt you. Take advantage of them, harness that fear and use it for good.” And he says, “You can’t live in fear.” I think that’s a beautiful statement. It’s like saying, I’m free now. I’ll go into any situation–it doesn’t matter who you are around the world–and if I just really commit to it, you can’t live in fear. You’re going to live better–you’re going to live a better life. Be cautious, be aware, but don’t be traumatized by your fears that you can’t leave the house or go to school.
EI: Is that easy to you?
NC: You have to commit to it. It’s not easy–it takes work, and I’m not saying I’ve achieved it. I have my fears, but I’m trying to…I don’t have the same level of fear as I once had. It’s a work in progress, but I think it’s a beautiful statement–a beautiful line.
EI: What about the line: “There are no accidents”?
NC: Well, that’s…yes. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe in cause and effect. I think everything happens for a reason and it was meant to happen, and it’s whether or not you choose to look at it and what you can learn from it that will put you where you need to be – in the right place.
EI: Have any particularly good things happened in your life that you feel were meant to be?
NC: I’m sure there are a lot of them, but I can’t…they’re not coming to my attention now – probably because I’m not meant to talk about them. [Laughs]
EI: Would meeting your wife qualify?
NC: Of course.
EI: Eva, you are stood up by Johnny more than once, but it seems your character has the ability to forgive and forget.
EM: Well, I think it’s also the thing where, first of all, he is the ultimate bad boy and there’s nothing more attractive than the bad boy you want to save, but of course you can’t – blah blah blah. I think all women have been there, and you’re lying if you say you haven’t been. But I also think it goes deeper than that. Even before she actually knows what the situation is, she’s so in love with him, and she sees it in his eyes that he’s beyond troubled and he’s dealing with circumstances beyond their control, and she’s the most understanding and amazing woman because she almost doesn’t even need to hear it. She knows. And that’s what’s so sweet about their relationship – that she just loves him so much and it goes beyond that. It’s almost like–of course she wants answers. That’s her emotional side and her being a female and her ego, but she knows that he’s in an extraordinary situation, so she’s gotta just accept that. She’s way more understanding than I’d be [laughs] – just for the record.
EI: Eva, is it true you put on weight for the role?
EM: Yeah. That sounds a little dramatic, but this is how I figured it–I was a little nervous starting the film because Roxanne Simpson in the comic book is blonde, blue-eyed, and very voluptuous, and I was telling my director, Mark, “I’m nervous because the comic book fans aren’t going to love me.” And he said, “Don’t worry about it. You have the essence of the character, and they’ll be fine.” And as I was looking through the Ghost Rider comic book, I thought, well she’s very voluptuous. I’m a terrible blonde, I don’t have blue eyes, but if I eat some extra dessert, I can (coughs) grow in the fun areas, as I call them. So it was more…I was conscious, but it wasn’t like, “Oh my God, I have to gain weight.’ It was something I did very naturally and gradually, and it was really fun skipping the gym, and I gained 12 pounds and it sounds like, “Oh God, that’s nothing,” but when you’re petite framed–I went up two bra sizes [laughs], which was…fun. So I thought, I overcompensated by not looking exactly like her in that area. That was that.
EI: Did you add the jelly beans and Carpenters songs?
NC: Well, yeah–I took that from my own life. I was eating jelly beans regularly and listening to Karen Carpenter’s voice. They both relax me, and if you feel like you’re pursued by any kind of bad spirit, the best way not to invite them in is to eat jelly beans instead of drinking gin and listening to The Carpenters instead of something that will make you want to beat somebody up.
EM: Black Sabbath.
NC: Yeah, Black Sabbath.
EI: What about the monkey video?
NC: I was on the Internet late one night and I saw this video of a monkey doing karate, and I thought, “He’s really good,” and I couldn’t stop laughing, and I said to Mark, “We gotta put that in the movie because that’s exactly the kind of thing that would relax Johnny Blaze–monkeys doing karate.”
EI: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
NC: Well, I’m quite boring. I like old books, I like to read 16th century philosophy, I also enjoy the water. I love the ocean, and anything to do with the sea is very relaxing for me.
EI: Do you live in Los Angeles?
NC: I’m all over the place, but I’m mostly, at the time, being here, but I tend to like to keep moving–very nomadic.
EI: You make a lot of movies, and each one seems very different from the next. How do you get ready for filming, and how do you let go after finishing a film?
NC: Well, it keeps it interesting for me, and I have been able to compartmentalize–you’ve got 24 hours in a day, and if you use your time well, you can get a lot done.
EI: Is there something you do to let go of a role?
NC: I try to spend as much time as I can with my family and, as I said, I like to spend as much time as I can on a boat. I find I’m more at home on the water than I am on land.
EI: What kind of boat do you have?
NC: Well, blah blah blah. It’s neither here nor there. I like the water.
EI: Why do you think you feel so comfortable on the water?
NC: [Laughs] That’s a good question. I feel like because…I don’t know why. Why does anybody feel like they like anything? I suppose if I really look at it…
EM: I love the water–nobody asked me, but I’ll volunteer! (laughs) I actually love the water as well, but I like the rocking motion aspect of it for me. It’s very soothing for me, whereas other people get sick or might not enjoy it. I feel it’s very soothing and very womb-like, in a way.
NC: I agree with you.
EI: Do you surf?
NC: I used to, not anymore. Now I just stay on the boat and feel it rock.
EI: Can you talk about your reasons for choosing the other films you have coming up?
NC: Yeah. My next movie is called Next and it’s also dealing with paranormal and spiritual concepts, and I guess, as I proceed in my life in film, I’m going to start exploring those possibilities. I think Ghost Rider, even though it’s a comic book film and it’s dealing with fantasy elements, it’s also potentially very, very real. We don’t really know–we have faith, but we have the spiritual and we have the material, and so when you’re dealing with that kind of subject matter, it’s so stimulating and fascinating to wonder about. It’s so compelling. In Next, I’m dealing with a man who can see two minutes into his future. He was born that way–is it possible? Absolutely it’s possible! Who knows? In a way, it’s more real than all this super technology you see in other movies that try to show you time travel. I think someone could possibly, with the right book in hand and the right state of mind and the right surroundings and the right old castle, could time travel if they really put their mind to it–if you use your imagination. So I want to explore that and open it up a little bit, and go into other areas that are more spiritual.
EI: What about National Treasure 2?
NC: National Treasure is just good energy. It’s wholesome family entertainment dealing with history, and trust me–there are worse things to do with your time than stimulate young people to read about their history. It’s just a good way around not having to shoot a lot of people in movies and entertain people with that kind of violence. So I’m all for that, and I’ll keep doing those as long as they come my way.
EI: Do you believe in Nostradamus?
NC: I haven’t read enough of Nostradamus to give you an answer on that.
EI: You’re a producer of the TV series, The Dresden Files.
NC: Yes, we’re trying to branch out. Saturn Films is like an octopus. We want to have our tentacles everywhere: radio, TV, film…but they’re all of a similar ilk. It’s interesting to me that I have “Dresden Files” out now on TV and “Ghost Rider” out in the cinema. We are living in difficult times, and I think people need to find encouragement wherever they can get it–and we have to open it up a little bit, and these movies, like “Ghost Rider” and “Dresden Files”, give us some chance to look into our beliefs and our faiths.
EI: Do you have a lot of input in your scripts?
NC: I don’t have a lot. I read the scripts, and if there’s something that feels a little uncomfortable…there’s a line in there that was just a little bit negative about love, so I said, “Take that out because I never want to look down on love.” Love is to be respected and treated with great reverence. Love is a beautiful thing. So I made sure that went back in, so we don’t look down on love. [Laughs]
EI: You’re just an old romantic at heart.
NC: Yeah, I am. It’s a blessing and a curse. I’ve made a lot of mistakes because of my romantic nature. [Laughs]
EI: Heroes is a TV show with some of the sensibilities that you mentioned earlier. Is that something close to your heart?
NC: I don’t know any TV. To be perfectly honest, I don’t watch television. I don’t. I don’t have time for it.
EI: So you only watch films?
NC: When I watch anything, I watch movies, but the truth is always the best. I’m usually just boring my wife by reading a book.
EI: You used to say that you were a terrible TV channel-surfer.
NC: When was that?
EI: A few years ago.
NC: I must have been single and very depressed. [Laughs]
EI: Will you do another Ghost Rider?
NC: It depends on the script. I’m not going to do any other comic book character. I’ve done this–this is the best one for me. I designed it with my team. We all did it together. I think, with my interests now, he’s the perfect character for me to keep exploring possibilities. I think, in some way, you have to be Ghost Rider to play Ghost Rider. You have to commit to those lines, when you say (which we had to write on the day), “I’m the only one who can walk in both worlds,” you have to really mean it. So it takes a certain type of person who has an open mind to play that part, so I might do another one and then pass the torch.
EI: Do you feel an obligation to do good–to be on the side of good?
NC: Yes, I do. I think it’s always important to respond to your higher self, not your lower self, whenever you can. It doesn’t mean you can always do it. We’re human–we’re going to make mistakes, and I’m not in any way shape or form perfect, but I think that Johnny Blaze is trying to respond to the higher calling, even though he’s in a bad situation. I believe in good and I want to be on that side.
EI: How many of the stunts did you do?
NC: There’s a time when the actor becomes a stuntman and a stuntman becomes an actor. A lot of the stuff–I’m on the bike a lot–is my guy who works with me. We work it out together. The studio inevitably is going to give you a call and say, “We want you to finish the movie.” Even if you want to do it all, they won’t let you do it all.
EI: Can you do all that crazy stuff on the bike?
NC: Some of it–not all of it.
EI: You said you were depressed when you were single. Are you a happy man now?
NC: Happy is a very fragile term. I’m content at the moment. Content.
EI: How is fatherhood the second time around?
NC: Any fatherhood is a gift. I’ve been blessed with both my sons, and they’re both wonderful, rewarding experiences in different ways. I’m not the same person I was 15 years ago, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. It’s been a blessing each and every time it has happened.
EI: You seem more and more interested in mystical subjects. Was there a turning point in your life? Was it something you read? Did you talk to someone like the Dalai Lama who changed your life?
NC: No, I think it’s something that was always there. It’s just something that comes more into focus with age.
EI: You said earlier that you weren’t sure, initially, whether fans of the comic book would accept you since you’re neither white nor blonde. Is there less racial prejudice in Hollywood now?
EM: It’s changing, but at a very slow place. I think it’s difficult to be a woman in Hollywood. I’m not saying, “Oh, woe is me.” No, I’ll take this challenge on and I take it on every day. It’s difficult to be a woman in Hollywood and it’s really difficult to be an ethnic woman in Hollywood, so I’m constantly fighting for roles. Fighting for them, picking up the phone, going, “Why wasn’t I considered for it?” There is no longer your typical American girl. She doesn’t look like Cheryl Tiegs anymore. That’s an idea from the ’80s–not even then. It’s just antiquated. Now I’m your typical American girl, as well as Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba, Lucy Liu…we just have to be fairly represented, and the fact is that Mark Steven Johnson was so cool to think outside the box to say, “I dig Eva Mendes. I think she’d be great for this.” (Laughs) We need more directors to do that, but I will take on the challenge every day, and I do–to pick up the phone and be like, “Why wasn’t I at least considered for this, or this, or this?”
EI: Does that fight make you stronger?
EM: For me personally, yeah. It makes me hungrier, and I will win.
EI: Is the Ugly Betty phenomenon helping?
EM: It’s awesome. First of all, I respect Salma Hayek for taking on the producer’s cap. She’s a woman who gets the job done–and America Ferrara. What a lovely young woman who doesn’t fit the Hollywood standard of beauty. I personally think she’s beautiful, but she’s a bit heavier and she doesn’t fall under the Hollywood standard of beauty. She won a Golden Globe and her show is so critically acclaimed and so popular. I actually don’t know her, but I called her. I asked my publicist to get me her number and I called her up before she won the Golden Globe and I said, “Good on you. This is fantastic. We need more people like you doing this.” I’m really proud.
EI: Has anyone ever told you that you need to lose weight, or you need to be blonde, or you’re too Latin?
EM: Every day, yeah. You just deal with it the best possible. Sometimes you can go around it, but most of the time you do what you have to do the job. Oh God. Please don’t take that out of context.
EI: Latins will be very well-represented at the Oscars.
EM: It’s awesome. It’s amazing. Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu and Penelope Cruz, my friend. It’s about time that people know we can do more than dance really well, cook and drink. I’m just trying to make it light, but I’m really proud. It’s a great time for us.
EI: Nic, you were in Bangkok for a movie last year when the coup occurred. Was that frightening?
NC: I was there when it happened. I was on the set around 1:00 in the morning firing an automatic weapon when the gun wrangler said, “You’ve got to stop shooting. There’s a military coup about to happen.” I didn’t even know what that meant. When was the last time we had a military coup in the United States? I was working with the Chinese filmmakers named the Pang brothers, and he looked at me and said, “It’s ‘Bangkok Dangerous’!” which was the name of the movie, but he was making a joke. And I knew then that I wasn’t going to take any chances because I kept thinking my son and my wife were at the hotel. So I walked off the set, woke them up, and I took them to the airport and I got on a plane and sent them to Korea . Then I left them there, got back to Bangkok on another plane, flew back to the set, and finished the movie, not knowing if I was going back into gunfire or tanks shooting. There were tanks on the street. It was a terrifying experience. All I could think was, “I’ve got to get my wife and child out of there.”
EI: Why did you go back?
NC: Because I had to finish the movie–because I had signed a contract, so once you sign a contract, you’ve got to fulfill the work, and I did. Thankfully nothing happened. But then, unfortunately, after I left, a lot of terrorist threats happened, and bombs have been going off all over Bangkok now, so it just became much worse. It just makes you think–pause for thought–as to going to make movies internationally right now. It’s a bit scary.
EI: What is that film about?
NC: What I like about the movie is I’m the only white guy in the whole film. Part of me is Asian. My son is Asian and my wife is Asian, so I wanted to have that experience–to work with Asian actors and directors, and to be a part of their creativity that’s happening now in China. I worked with John Woo [on 2002’s "Windtalkers"], but this was a uniquely Asian crew. Everyone was Thai, and my co-star was a Thai actor and he was terrific. I just wanted to see what they could do with me. It was like, “I’m in your hands. I need something new. I want to try something new. What can you do with me?” And also I want my son to grow up and one day see this friendship between me and this Asian actor I worked with so he can never say, “Hey Dad, how come you never worked with Asian actors?” I have. I’m very excited for Asia in general. I think you were talking earlier about different groups, like the Latin community and how they are represented in film. Asia is a huge world market. It is the future. In the old days, it was amazing that Bruce Lee became a star because it was so hard for Asian actors to make it in Hollywood. He broke that wide open, but it hasn’t happened much. But now, with what the world market of Asia is doing, we see Hollywood trying to cast Asian actors. You’ve got Gong Li in “Miami Vice” and wherever they can get them in–they want them in now. So I think the future looks bright–especially for Kal-El, if he chooses to be an actor. I think he’ll be in good shape.
EI: Would you encourage that?
NC: I’m not saying I would encourage it–I’m saying anything that any of my children want to do that doesn’t hurt themselves or anybody else, I will support.
EI: Does your older son, Weston, have any acting aspirations?
NC: He does, and he’s a very handsome young man. He’s really a remarkable person.
EM: I have to say, if I was a 15-year-old girl, I would love Weston. He’s amazing. He’s really a cool kid.
NC: He’s a terrific athlete. He’s a gold medal-winning wrestler and he’s going to the state championships, so we’re talking about what the next step is for him.
EI: Wasn’t he in one of your films?
NC: He was in “Lord of War” on the helicopter. He was really good.
EI: So he could do that again?
NC: Oh yeah.
EI: Maybe in Ghost Rider 2?
EI: Do you think sports are better influences on teenagers than things like MySpace?
NC: Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger. Look what he did with weightlifting–the same focus he put into lifting that extra hundred pounds. If Weston put half the focus he puts into his wrestling before a match into acting, it’s going to be very exciting for all of us.
EI: Do you plan to direct again?
NC: I do. I’m waiting for a script to come in, and when I like it I’ll probably put that on fast-track–a much smaller film.
EI: Do you still ride a motorcycle?
NC: I don’t, at the moment, because I want to be a good role model and I don’t think that’s the safest thing in the world to do.
EI: Did you get one of the Ghost Rider motorcycles?
NC: I asked for one. They promised me one. They never gave me one. There you go, right?
EI: Eva, you mentioned Salma Hayek earlier, and you are the Executive Producer of your next film. Are you trying to follow in her footsteps and have more control?
EM: I have no aspirations to produce. I don’t necessarily want to be a producer. What happened was I read this great script and thought, “What a fantastic character. How can I help get this done?” It’s one of those things. I can sit on the couch and eat ice cream or cry and call Mom about the lack of roles in Hollywood, or I can get off my butt and do something. Sometimes I still call Mom and cry, and sometimes I get my butt up and do what I can to get a project off the ground. But I’m really proud of “Live”. It just got accepted into the Tribeca Film Festival, and it’s such a small film and little old me, and I’m really excited about it.
EI: Nic, what can you tell us about National Treasure 2?
NC: It’s dealing with Abraham Lincoln and with Confederate gold and the Booth Diary. It’s pretty interesting stuff. I think it could potentially be better than the first one because I think the subject matter is more on people’s minds, possibly. Same group as before–the whole thing across the board. We start March 15th. We’re going to have to go very slowly with this one and see what it’s all about–very cautiously.
EI: Will it open in the fall?
NC: I guess. I don’t know what they have in mind. That’s a whole machine over there, and I’m just sort of invited to the party.
EI: People say you’re a great actor. Can you look at yourself in your first movies and enjoy them, or do you think you have grown and become a better actor today?
NC: It’s different. I don’t look back as a rule, but I have to say if something comes on TV for two seconds and someone says, “Watch this,” or they’re talking to me about it, it’s not better or worse–it’s just different – a different time. I don’t really watch it.
EI: Did you enjoy playing a Russian in Lord of War?
NC: Yes, I did.
EI: Can you say something in Russian?
NC: No, I can’t. I’m not going to put that on record. My accent is horrible. My son, Weston, speaks Russian.
EI: Is there a performance you are most proud of?
NC: I try not to be proud. I actively try to attack pride and I say that, hopefully, not sounding proud. But I have to say I am very happy with “Ghost Rider”–that this movie finally made it. And I think it’s a good movie with a good heart, and I’m happy I got to be in a comic genre film as one more expression to be able to apply myself to, and that it was a good one.
EI: As a confessed romantic, what are some of the romantic things that you like to do?
NC: It’s always nice to take your loved one…
EM: To go see Ghost Rider.
NC: …to a great dinner. Or go some place romantic where the ambience is stimulating, and talk and listen and read, express, love, hold–the whole shebang.
EM: I love that list!
EI: So you read and your wife watches you read?
NC: No. [Laughs] Well, some of the stuff I read is romantic.
EI: Do you read out loud then?
NC: Sometimes…and you get ideas. It’s good for getting ideas as to how to be romantic.
EI: What are these romantic books?
NC: That’s personal. The book is the best way to find out the soul of somebody. I’m not going to give you that.
EI: Maybe you can inspire us.
NC: You guys act like we’re separate from each other. We’re actually all one.
EI: How do you see the business side of your job? Lord of War was a great movie, but it wasn’t seen by as many people as it could have been. Does that bother you, or do you just have to let it go?
NC: One thing I do know is you can’t do movies for reviews or awards, because if you do that, you’re dead. And some of my best choices have been choices I made in almost irreverent fashion to not get awards or reviews, like “Leaving Las Vegas”. I was almost talked out of that movie. I remember saying to myself, “I’m never going to win an Academy Award anyway, so why don’t I just do this?” Which is weird. And World Trade Center - that’s the best thing that could have happened to that movie. I did not want to go down that red carpet and talk about that and schmooze and schmaltz and be political when you’re dealing with something that tragic. I wouldn’t have gone to the Oscars if I’d been nominated. It’s the wrong movie for that. That movie is very fresh and very personal to the United States of America, and it would be wrong to bask in a Vanity Fair Oscar party when you’re dealing with all those people’s lives who died in the Trade Center. I’m happy it worked out the way it did.
EI: You said you want to do something for the good. Do you do other things besides movies? Are there causes you support?
NC: It’s weird how powerful a name is – any name. Even though I didn’t choose my name, it has influenced me and that’s why I put so much thought into Kal-El’s name with Alice. St. Nicholas was a saint who was interested in children and interested in sailors and fish, so I’ve been involved with different groups that try to help children, like the child soldiers who are dealing with the LRA and how they are turned into soldiers. It’s very painful and tragic. I’ve been working with Heal the Bay here in Santa Monica because sometimes I’ll go out on the ocean and I’ll do a little fishing, and I want to give something back to the ocean. I’ve done different things to clean up the water, but those are things I do only because I believe in it. Even right now talking about it, you asked me so I am answering, but I wouldn’t have brought it up on my own.
EI: Do you still have your comic collection?
NC: No, I only have the Ghost Rider comics. I had a great collection–a very valuable collection, but I was robbed. It was an inside job. I had the first Batman, the first Superman, and the first Detective comic. I said to myself, “Well, I should let other people have this.” I’m not the kind of person who’s going to keep something in a safe. I’m going to look at it and share it, and I had it on my wall and it was stolen…so I decided it was better that I didn’t have them.
EI: What was the value of that collection?
NC: It’s a matter of public record. At the time, it was worth about…well, I don’t really comfortable discussing my….
EM: A lot.
EI: Isn’t the first Batman comic worth about $175,000?
NC: Oh no, it’s way more than that. Way more than that.
EI: Do you still collect cars?
NC: I like anything that moves – I really do. I’m a transportation fanatic. I like the design of those things which move and the way they move. I’ve always been fascinated by any kind of vehicle, whether it’s an aeroplane or a car or a boat. Trains are gorgeous. Raymond Lowie designed some beautiful streamlined trains. He’s one of my favorite designers. Any time you want to get me out of this, Annette…
EI: Do you still have your Ferrari?
NC: I enjoy all kinds of moving things.
EI: You travel a lot for your work. Do you find time for yourself to go to restaurants, museums…?
NC: I went to the Prado when I was in Spain promoting Ghost Rider. I saw the Goyas, which were really interesting. I find a way to make time happen, even if it’s an hour here or 30 minutes there. I try to get some inspiration.
Sony Pictures Entertainment's 'Ghost Rider' is released in theaters on February 16, 2007.